CLARKSVILLE — Lebanon’s girls were put out of the Region 5-AAA tournament by Rossview last Friday. But when Mt. Juliet was in foul trouble at halftime of Wednesday’s championship game, coach Chris Fryer borrowed a page from the Devilettes.
The Lady Bears staved off the host Lady Hawks 61-49 to take their first region championship plaque since 2010.
Following a back-and-forth beginning, Mt. Juliet used a 9-0 run and led 19-9 at the first-quarter break as the Lady Bears went inside to twins Ronjanae and Raeyana DeGray and Sally McCabe.
But Rossview’s press took its toll in the second quarter and three Lady Bears [McCabe, Tyia Waller and Skye Riggan] each went into halftime with three fouls. That Mt. Juliet withstood an 11-0 Lady Hawk run which brought the hosts to within 27-26 and was up 29-27 at the break didn’t mean the danger was over.
“The first half was a battle between two pretty good teams,” Fryer said after his Lady Bears improved to 28-1. “Both teams played well on offense. We handled their pressure pretty good for the most part. It got wild at times.
“The key to the game was really the 2-3 zone in the second half. I watched Coach [Courtney] McFarland’s team at Lebanon play a 2-3 zone against them and I thought it would be a good defense to run against them. It kept us from getting in more foul trouble and saved some of our players and it also caused them some troubles because they struggled against that zone.”
Mt. Juliet reeled off the first seven points of the second half and only absorbed two fouls [to the previously foul-free] DeGray twins during the third quarter which ended with Waller’s breakaway layup off her blocked shot for a 53-40 lead.
But Rossview scored the first eight points of the fourth quarter to pull within 53-48. Waller fouled out with 3:13 to play.
But after Mt. Juliet struggled for much of the game from the free-throw line, Ronjanae DeGray sank all six of her foul shots in the fourth quarter as the Lady Bears survived not scoring a field goal in the final period.
Ronjanae Degray dropped in 9 of 13 free throws in leading the Lady Bears with 23 points while McCabe finished with 13 and Raeyana DeGray 12. Riggan finished with four, Ashley Roby three and Waller two. Roby, McCabe and Ronjanae DeGray were named to the all-tournament team.
“Our three big kids had a good night,” Fryer said. “The key to our region success though has been Ashley Roby, our point guard. She’s just come on shooting the basketball for us and handling pressure and getting the ball distributed to the right people.”
Jamie White finished with 14 points inside and Mickey Head 12, mostly from the baseline, for the Lady Hawks, who fell to 26-3 and will travel to Overton, which improved to 27-4 with a 57-44 win over Franklin. The Lady Rebels will bring a 19-11 mark to Mt. Juliet for Saturday’s 7 p.m. sectional.
“Regional championships are not easy to obtain,” said Fryer, whose Lady Bears had lost the two previous 5-AAA finals. “I’m very happy we were able to do that this year and I’m looking forward to getting back in our gym.”